South Korean firm moves to build plant in Haiti

From: Sandra Mignot

South Korean firm moves to build plant in Haiti
Associated Press – November 28, 2011

CARACOL, Haiti The biggest international project aimed at helping
Haiti rebound from the 2010 earthquake eased closer to reality at a
ceremony Monday.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian President Michel
Martelly broke ground for an ambitious $224 million industrial park in
northern Haiti that they hope will generate tens of thousands of jobs,
house 5,000 of the workers and educate 500 of their children in a new

Those involved hope the South Korean garment manufacturer Sae-A
Trading Co. Ltd. will set an example and urge other foreign businesses
to invest in Haiti, a country long ignored by outsiders because of its
cumbersome laws, heaps of red tape and occasional political tumult.

“Investors still do not believe or understand the value and potential
of Haiti as we do,” Kim Woong-ki, chairman of Sae-A, said through an
interpreter in the northern town of Caracol. “Let’s open this closed
door and mind set toward Haiti and highlight the true value and
potential of Haiti.”

The project on the 617-acre (250-hectare) site was in the works long
before the January 2010 earthquake but became a priority after Clinton
was named the United Nations’ special envoy for Haiti in 2009 and
given responsibility for spurring private investment.

On the eve of the quake’s first anniversary, the Haitian government
and Sae-A signed an agreement to create the industrial park, which
will export clothing to the United States. Among the company’s 20
existing factories are plants in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Indonesia and

The United States has provided $120 million for generating
electricity, housing for workers and improvements to a port in the
north. The Inter-American Development Bank will provide $50 million
for building factory shells and infrastructure.

The Caracol industrial park is intended to be Haiti’s largest private
employer, with a goal of providing 20,000 jobs at the park and
creating 133,000 in all through cottage industries.

The first T-shirts are scheduled be made in May or June of next year.

“This is the kind of change we need,” Martelly said from a stage
surrounded by bulldozers and other heavy machinery. “This is the kind
of development we need.”

Workers will be paid Haiti’s minimum wage, which is $5 a day, and will
be eligible for bonuses based on performance.

Clinton said the industrial park will eventually improve the lives of
about 500,000 people as the complex brings in other tenants and small
businesses emerge around the plant.

Thirty percent of Sae-A’s jobs will be set aside for women.

Nella Felix hopes to be among them. She’s a sometime street vendor who
makes up the 60 percent of the population that makes about $2 a day.

“For me, it’s a real way for the youth of the community to live, to
find jobs and work,” Felix, 42, said after the ceremony. “I’m waiting
to see what they can do for us.”

Critics of the industrial park argue that Haiti would be better off
investing money in its long-neglected agriculture sector instead of
the garment sector, which has stumbled along because of sporadic
political upheaval.

Rudy Boulos, a business leader and former senator for the region,
acknowledged the shortcomings but said the thousands of jobs will
stimulate the area’s economy, allowing parents to send their children
to school.

“I don’t think an industrial plant is the best way to create jobs,”
Boulos said before the ceremony started. “But it’s a beginning. It’s a
first step to being self-sufficient.”

Separately, Clinton and Martelly announced Monday that the Digicel
phone company will help build a $45 million, 173-room hotel with
Marriott International. The new franchise is expected to create 175

Construction is expected to begin next year in Turgeau, one of the few
middle-class neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince proper. Opening is
scheduled for mid-2014.


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